Author Archives: Steve Pauls

Why Teachers Should Attend Science Education Conferences

This past March I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the annual National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) conference in Atlanta, Georgia. While I was there I gave a talk related to my current work involving spatial ability and early childhood education, but more importantly, I was able to spend four days learning science alongside other science teachers. The NSTA conference is one of the largest science education conferences in the country. With nearly 10,000 attendees, NSTA provides an interactive four-day venue for teachers to explore, experience, share, and invent new ideas for the classroom. In many ways, attending a NSTA national conference is like drinking out of a fire hose, with more talks, workshops, and exhibits than one can ever experience. It is often hard to choose a session from the myriad of offerings, and if you don’t go early enough it’s nearly impossible to get a seat. But with four days and hundreds of talks there is more than enough science for everyone to experience.

Beyond the official talks and workshops there are the informal table and hallway conversations which are so important for the growth and sustainability of a science teacher. It is a chance for each teacher to meet other, like-minded educators from around the country, all with similar classroom logistics and issues. It is a chance to share ideas, challenge assumptions, and create a vision for the future of education through the infusion of new methods and ideas from the ground up instead of being mandated from the top down. The challenge for any teacher is how to translate the myriad of new ideas into the classroom once you get home. From my experience it is far too easy to feel “behind the eight ball” after being gone for a few days and immediately put the conference experience behind you to play catch up. Soon, those newly discovered ideas are lost in the shuffle of the daily classroom grind.

I would certainly recommend that all teachers be given an opportunity to attend a science education gathering such as a national or regional NSTA conference. To make the most of such an opportunity, I would suggest that all of us should take what we have learned and immediately share that knowledge and experience with our colleagues once we get home. I always come away from such a conference feeling energized, excited, and filled with new projects and ideas. But attending a conference is not just about learning something new but also about finding innovative ways to implement and disseminate those ideas into the classrooms at your own school. Don’t let that spark of energy and invention that sprung to life at a science conference wither and die. Keep it alive, feed off that energy both for yourself and your colleagues. My challenge to you as a teacher is to find the collaborative space, time, energy, and dedication to allow that to happen at your school.

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Spatial Learning in Early Childhood Development

In a previous blog post I talked about the importance of spatial learning in relationship to our interactions and perception of the surrounding world. Piaget outlined the importance of spatial perception in his 1948 book, The Child’s Conception of Space. In his book he discusses the importance of mental visualization to a child’s development as… Continue Reading

The Importance of Spatial Learning

Spatial learning was defined by Harvard educator Howard Gardner in 1983 as one of nine individual “parts of the whole” in his theory of multiple intelligences. His ideas have somewhat fallen out of favor over the years mostly due to misinterpretation of his theory. Teachers have always tended to place each student in one of… Continue Reading

Where is the Overlap Between Teaching and Learning?

As an “aging” educator and a self-professed lifelong learner, I have spent a lot of my time thinking about both teaching and learning within the confinements of the educational classroom. Are the concepts of teaching and learning synonymous with each other? Or are they exclusive from one another? I have recently been part of several… Continue Reading

Passion and Play in the Classroom

The idea of “play” as an educational structure in the classroom is a not new concept, but historically there has been significant international interest in research related to the benefits of student learning through play. Mitchel Resnick, a founder of the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group, has just published a new book based around… Continue Reading

What Part Does Technology have to Play in the Future of Education? (Part IV)

In the final installment of my blog series concerning education and technology, I would like to look ahead at the new technology that is currently attracting interest within educational and academic research. As a reminder, this series stems from the Jean Piaget Society conference I attended which had the theme “Technology and Human Development.” In… Continue Reading

What Part Does Technology Have to Play in the Future of Education? (Part III)

This blog post is the third in a series concerning technology in education stemming from the Jean Piaget Society Conference I attended in June. The theme of this year’s conference was “Technology and Human Development.” It provided a venue to discuss technology through a variety of different academic disciplines and research frames of reference all… Continue Reading